For the Queens and Kings of Appalachia

Wonderful. I found this at Appalachian Ink, and I like it. It reminds me of my grandmother. Through her, I also have the hardness.

Appalachian Ink ~ Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)


This is a hard place. And we are hard people. All of us know that hardness, even those who have escaped into the rest of the world. We are proud of it. It’s a birthright. A certain bad blood courses through us, as arcane as the land itself. These mountains are family, our very ancestors. They have taught us lessons that haughty Northerners and other foreigners will never learn or understand.

 We are children of the pines. Walkers of the high ridges. Tellers of stories too wild to be true… but are. We are the daughters and sons of central Appalachia. We are, by birth, Kings and Queens of this nowhere. We know this. These mountains have told us so. They love us and want to keep us all to themselves. The wind has whispered it to our souls since we knew how to speak and listen. And we listen…

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The Last of the Granny Witches

Something I found on the internet, worthy of posting.

Appalachian Ink ~ Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)

We are a peculiar breed. Our roots grow deeper than the cedars, and yet we don’t know precisely where or who it is that we grew from. We are a mystery as old as these hills themselves, and it doesn’t take much figuring to know that we are enigmas of intentional design and destiny.


God knows our names.

We are not Northerners — damn Yankees, the men folks’ Confederate influence called them — and this we know without a doubt. I myself was always preened into believing I was a Southern child, born out of notions of gallantry and romance, but the fact is, I ain’t a low country belle and I’ve never picked a shred of cotton or been to a debutante ball.

We are not peaches.

And these mountain women before us were not delicate flowers or distressed coquettes. In these old heirloom hills, the women are…

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Richard III windows Leicester Cathedral

Beautiful stained glass windows reveal history about Richard 111. One day I would like to look at these in person.

The History Jar

IMG_7218It’s more than a year since King Richard III was reinterred at Leicester Cathedral in March 2015 after famously being discovered under a car park.

In addition to the rather large slab of Swaledale stone fashioned to represent a sarcophagus there are two fine new windows in the north side of St Katherine’s chapel designed by artist Thomas Denny which are truly beautiful.

The reds and golds are particularly eye-catching.  The more you look; the more you see. There’s even a football in the window for those who look carefully enough – a reminder of Leicester’s successful 2015-2016 football season.

I love the window depicting Leicester’s archeology including mosaics, Saxon treasure and  a skeleton – presumably Richard’s.IMG_7242The window on the left shows women tending to bodies in the aftermath of battle – Bosworth, although it could, of course, be any Wars of the Roses field. Above the women a window…

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Douce Dame Jolie: Machaut’s ghostly music of love and death

A haunting medieval song about courtly love and death. Love it.

Giaconda's Blog


Douce Dame Jolie was composed in the C14th by Guillaume de Machaut who lived between 1300 and 1377 around the area of Rheims in France. It follows the conventions of the ‘Ars Nova’ style which flourished in France and the Low Countries during the C14th and the structure of a ‘virelai’, a verse of three stanzas with a repeated refrain before the first and after each subsequent stanza.

Machaut was a master of this form and Douce Dame is probably the best known and most performed of his virelai pieces. Many contemporary performers continue to sing versions of the song with different tempi and voice styles but it remains consistently haunting and intoxicating to the ear.

The virelai was one of the three ‘Formes Fixes’, along with the ballade and rondeau which were popular in the C13th – C15th and together with motets and lais formed the basis of secular musical…

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What Dancing Taught Me

Most of us hold in our mind’s eye the kind of person we want to be. Then we spend time trying to live up to that image. Some want to be more spiritual, or more patient. Some people want to be famous, or richer, or they want to be a fighter for causes, or an ideology. Some would like to avoid confrontations, so they imagine themselves submissive –others envision themselves as leaders, decision makers.


For me, gracefulness was the goal. I grew up in a dancing family. Much of what I learned about human interaction I learned from dancing. You always give a firm grip, and put your weight into the push and pull with your partner. You look people in the eye, and you laugh and smile –enjoying the social and physical experience. Life, at its best, is music and dance, a deep rhythm in the multiverse that you share with others. In step. In an ecstasy of movement and patterns. That was my training from a young age. It stuck.


Grace translates into non-dancing situations as firm handshakes, interacting appropriately with eye contact, giving just enough weight (opinions, or points of view) to add balance, and looking for patterns, as in the celebration of earth’s seasons. It also means searching for meaningful connections in the physical and emotional planes. A dancer seeks communion, to hear rhythms of speech, not just words –and the physical interaction with other people in the pleasant cadences of language. Grace is sensual and intuitive.


Much of what I grew up to emulate, as grace, is disappearing. Balance, in terms of world views and respectfully shared opinions, is out the window. Everyone is yelling at each other and using words like “evil” and “dangerous” to describe opposing points of views. Physical connections have diminished with the internet. As has language. As much as I love my Mac, and my iPhone, they don’t convey individual speech patterns in emails or texts.The rhythm has gone, replaced by acronyms and quick bypass words. The emphasis today swings to quick fixes, instant relationships devoid of the dance of courtship, and language cooled down and filtered through electronics. Handwriting, unique as a fingerprint, is no longer taught in schools. Even the actual art of couple and figure dancing has been replaced by modern methods resembling individuals plugged into their own sockets and reacting to varying degrees of electrical charge. It can be fun to dance alone, of course, especially when combined with house cleaning, from room to room. But it’s only with others you learn grace.


The question becomes: How to embody grace in today’s world? I’m too old to develop another image for myself. And I’m stubborn –ask my friends.


As I consider this question, I recall one of my favorite dancing partners, Tom. He and I were enjoying a contra one night. Contra dancing is a line of women and a line of men, facing each other, and the dances involve intricate patterns and movement up or down the set, depending on your placement in the line. We had arrived at a large dancehall in Kentucky. Probably three hundred people were packed in that hall, and about 5 separate sets ( of two lines per set) extended longways from wall to wall. The live band played a reel. It was loud and thrilling. We had the best musicians from around the country  –a full band resonating in a hall with warm bodies, and everyone dancing in time.


At some point, once we learned the pattern of the dance, a fluid, trance-like state befell us as we repeated the  geometric figures up and down the room. Suddenly, at that moment, the dance grounded itself into body memory. The shift happened. The sync with other dancers, and with each other, transcended linear thinking. The musicians felt the moment too, and the music flowed effortlessly, exuberantly.


Tom and I were so caught up in the moment that we sailed, mid-dance,  over to another set. The mistake was honest, as the room was packed. For a moment chaos ensued as we realized our mistake and everyone in our new set had to re-configure to accommodate another couple. But in the end, we laughed, formed to the new set, and kept laughing, and never missed a beat. It was funny. We laugh about it to this day.


So perhaps part of grace is a sense of humor. Disruptions occur every day, much more drastic than our set change that night. But even if I don’t compose myself as readily as on a dance floor, maybe I can still maintain an ability to laugh at myself.


Grace may also include looking for and appreciating new patterns –even if I have to reach a little further to find them today. In other words, I will not be afraid to change arrangements, paradigms, or motives.The body remembers new dances in time. Change is unchangeable and necessary. Nothing is constant. The dance ends, another begins. Partners may change. The reel changes to a waltz.


The good news is the seasons still change in rhythm. That pulse is my religion. And I can still count on two hands the number of people who are close to me, in whom I trust. Connections don’t need to number in the hundreds, as on a dance floor. Natural seasons and cycles, and the polytheistic rituals I observe, provide abounding sustenance –as do my close friends. I take heart in these things.


As for the recent barrage of bad manners, particularly during this presidential election year, from all sides –I don’t know what to do with that. I wish more people would learn to dance, or write, or otherwise communicate effectively. I suppose there will always be people who bang heads together, or can’t pull themselves out of electrical sockets.


Here is what I can do:  I will always present with a firm handshake, be attentive to my place in the big picture, as in sets, and remember to laugh if I lose my place for a minute. I can gracefully lend the weight of my convictions with my every step , and love the dance of life. Maybe if I keep offering that love to people, I can create a new dance, one person at a time.



Laurel Owen



Jung’s ‘archetypes’ and their function in medieval history.

I love this piece. Well done.

Giaconda's Blog

jung Jungian archetypes

I’ve been interested in ‘archetypes’ for a long time as I am very drawn to myth and to aspects of Jungian psycho-analysis particularly with regard to how we analyse the personalities and character of historical figures.

Often ‘myth’ is classified as something unreal or untrue yet myths also contain the essence of experience and accumulated wisdom or truth carried down for generations and that is why they retain their power to fascinate us. Myth goes hand in hand with the concept of ancient models which are carried in our sub-conscious and applied to our analysis of characters.

‘The term “archetype” has its origins in ancient Greek. The root words are archein, which means “original or old”; and typos, which means “pattern, model or type”. The combined meaning is an “original pattern” of which all other similar persons, objects, or concepts are derived, copied, modeled, or emulated.’

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Politics and Religion: Do I Dare?

 Politics and Religion: Do I Dare?


It’s hot, and the world has gone crazy.  Really? Confederate flags are offensive, and cause people to shoot one another? Goodness. It rings like 1984  hyperbole and distraction. What is the real issue the government does not want us to see? Perhaps that nasty trade agreement which will destroy American jobs? I’m not surprised.

The soldiers who ran into battle with a rebel yell didn’t have the money for slaves. The banning of the confederate flag seems to me to be disrespectful of the men who fought under it, who did not own slaves. The civil war was about state’s rights and the spread of industrialization. The soldiers who fought with the confederacy were mostly defending their homes.

It’s all baffling to me. When did we become a society of whiners and hurt feelings? People are afraid to speak English and be honest for fear of offending someone. It’s one of the reasons I stopped being a liberal –that and the self-righteousness. They are open minded until you disagree with them, then you are worthy of shunning and censorship, which is hypocrisy.  I just couldn’t find  genuineness in calling myself a liberal, or left, anymore. Of course, I did not go out and join the Republican party, either. The Christian right is nauseating. A theocracy is not what Thomas Jefferson and the other founders had in mind. So I have decided I’m Libertarian. Pro gun, pro privacy and private choices, anti-war, anti death penalty, social liberal, free market conservative, and anti censorship. Pro free speech. Pro small government. Live and let live.  I don’t care what political worldview or religious belief anyone has, as long as they don’t harm others in the pursuit of these values and ideals.

Don’t know why I’m sharing about politics, but there you have it. I used to be an activist. We took to the street, and believed so deeply in our causes that we risked arrest. My first arrest was in 1987 when we surrounded the CIA building in Langley, VA, and for a short time, prevented the employees from going to work. We opposed intervention anywhere in the world –especially, at that time, in Central and South America. I still have a federal record from that event, and I’m proud of it. I can remember crying and laughing as the feds handcuffed us. A veteran anarchist patted my hand and said, “You’re just young, and taking things a little hard.” Later she told me if we went to federal prison, to branch out and get to know people, that there were a lot of interesting people in prison. These were prophetic words.

The authorities in the federal  prison system chuckled about that conviction when I was being vetted to volunteer in prisons, years later.  After 9/11, the things people got slapped on the wrist for in the 80’s would become terrorist activities in our century.

At some point I realized that real change would occur in small sizes. The Empire would not fall because of our civil disobedience and headline direct actions. So I volunteered in prisons, and welcomed the learning curve. It was a huge one. My entire paradigm changed. Volunteering in prison allows you (if you let it) to understand another culture. When you branch out from your comfort zone, the learning begins. Spirituality became political. As a volunteer for a religious minority (pagans and Odinists), I experienced a taste of discrimination, found myself on the receiving end of scare tactics, oppression, and sheer ignorance. The prisoners knew all about it, and had been standing up, and fighting, for years. They had spent time in the hole just for saying they were Odinist. One guy literally had bibles chunked at him by a CO deep in an Arkansas prison. I learned the hard way, suddenly, as an outsider without a clue, that  the concept of white privilege was null and void in this prison culture. The spiritual beliefs of the white prisoners I encountered in my groups was feared and reviled by insecure authorities. Why? Don’t know. I figure one reason is  because, historically, whites escape. They are smart. Perhaps a bunch of white prisoners in the same room under one banner was a threat, I don’t know. Perhaps it was just the close-mindedness of the monotheists.

In any case, for 20 years, as I fought uphill battles with the prison systems, I became a target myself. Ever been hauled off to a federal grand jury for a scare tactic –without any knowledge of a crime? I’ll save that story for another time. Trust me when I say it was scary. I learned. And it shaped who I am today. I would do it all again, as painful as it was. To stand with 30 men, or women, who have fought long to stand and observe simple spiritual preference — was an honor. To feel the power of how present they were in the circle — it was a gift. The free world does not produce such focus and ardent connectedness.

Spiritually, I have lately experienced a shift. It’s as it should be, though. Life is fluid. Yoga teaches us that you are only as old as your spinal cord is stiff. It helps to change and move fluidly, not only physically, but also via thoughts, ideas, and life passages. I’m a pagan through and through, and will always be. But I no longer feel drawn to define myself via groups with labels. Boundaries are important, and I own boundaries. The new-age movement, for instance –the world of spiritual dilettantism, doesn’t do a thing for me. I find that movement groundless and ill-defined; borrowing from various pantheons, a little taste of hither and yon according to today’s whim, with no discipline or actual study. No thanks. But I have not –for a long while– had any truck with the purists who shun the word pagan, for instance, because it’s not a Germanic word, or who disbelieve in magic because magic is for Wiccan airheads. Maybe Wiccans are largely airheads. Probably true. But I don’t need to engage in these petty word battles and ego issues between this group and that group. I have small gatherings of friends on holy days, which are delightful.  I employ western occult traditions with viking energy, the gift of gab and musicality of the Celts with the heartfelt toasts of the norsemen. Our ancestors were not prudish pedants. They were pagans, and alive with the great pantheons of aunts and uncles, who were gods and goddesses of nature, and personal to them. It’s the personal part that’s important. We used to say, in my activist days, the personal is political. Perhaps I have come full circle.

OK, that’s probably enough philosophizing. Thanks for listening.


Laurel Owen